Andrew always tells me I love to worry. And mostly, it’s true: Thoughts are constantly running laps in my mind, keeping me up at night or gnawing at me during the daytime. It takes a lot for me to relax and slow down.
This past weekend was Labor Day, a perfect excuse to get out of the city for a few days. Andrew and I booked flights to Santa Barbara, California, and we invited my mom and dad to come with us. This trip would be my first real vacation since our wedding in Palm Beach, and I couldn’t wait. I dreamed of the wine we’d drink, the memories we’d make, and the coastal resort we’d explore.
The Everett and Stone families arrived at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore in Santa Barbara late in the day on Friday. Everywhere I looked, there were pale pink flowers and ivy-covered walls and golden sunshine.
“Welcome,” the bellhop grinned, opening my car door. “Checking in?”
The Biltmore was constructed in 1927, designed to be a luxury resort inspired by the Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture. Nearly a century later, the hotel has become one of the most iconic properties on the West Coast.
All at once, I felt as if I’d been transported to another land. The lush gardens and cobblestone pathways led Andrew and I to our room. Inside, there was soft classical music playing, sun pouring in through the Juliet balcony doors, and a sweet treat waiting for us from the staff. Out the window, we saw gentle waves lapping at Butterfly Beach. It was, in a word, magical.
As afternoon faded into evening, Andrew and I sat on the terrace and sipped sauvignon blanc in our swimsuits, then got dressed for dinner. We had a table for four reserved at The Lark, a buzzy restaurant in Santa Barbara’s wine-centric Funk Zone. We ate the best oysters I’ve ever had, followed by a family-style meal of roasted chicken and giant scallops. Exhausted from the travel, everyone went to bed early that night.
Andrew and I were awake by 7 the next morning. We set out for a walk around Montecito’s foggy streets, and little by little, I started to feel anxiety creep into the day. No, I said to myself, trying to push it away. Not here! I thought about my clients, my business, my future. As we climbed up the street, I began rattling off my concerns to Andrew.
“Melanie, we’re on vacation,” he said gingerly, tugging at my hand. “Try to relax. Take a breath.”
Andrew was right, of course. I was in the most beautiful place with three of my favorite people on the planet. So, why couldn’t I stop worrying?
Lesson 3: Rest
In one of the final scenes in Something’s Gotta Give, Harry Sanborn (played by Jack Nicholson) sprawls out on the hospital bed after an anxiety attack in NYC. The doctor leans over him, offering words of wisdom and practical next steps.
Doctor: Mr. Sanborn. Your diagnosis, although fascinating, was entirely incorrect. Do you realize that a severe anxiety attack can masquerade as a heart attack?
Harry: So I’m nuts. Perfect. The one thing I’m not taking pills for.
Doctor: If you don’t want to be here every week, I suggest you do whatever it takes to decompress. Now lie down. Just try something with me. Come on. Give me your hand. Relax, relax. All right, close your eyes. Okay, good. I want you to give yourself a visual image of something that gives you a feeling of peace and serenity.
Harry: I don’t know. A hammock.
Doctor: Good. What else?
Harry: Palm trees. Clear, blue water.
Doctor: What else do you see? Feel? Taste?
Harry: A peach margarita. A Cuban cigar. Miles of soft beach.
From Something’s Gotta Give, my family’s favorite movie. We quote it constantly.
In the movie, Harry ends up going to the beach for five whole minutes, and then he realizes that he wasn’t going to find peace there. I won’t spoil the rest, because you should most definitely watch it on Netflix.
I can relate to Harry. All summer, I looked forward to this dreamy weekend in Southern California. It had been a hectic Q1 and Q2 in Chicago — starting a marriage and a business, expanding the company, and handling the day-to-day transactional items — and I knew I needed to rest. But just like Harry, I got to the beach and could not turn my brain off.
On our last breakfast together at our hotel, the four of us talked about rest. We held steaming mugs of coffee in our hands and looked out over the ocean, and I shared that I was having a hard time experiencing true rest. No one was surprised by my admission.
My dad could relate, of course. Him and I are cut from the same cloth. At the table that morning, he told me how he’s always worrying, too — on vacation or at home. But this particular weekend away from work was allowing my dad to spend more time in his Bible and set his mind on the peace that is only found in Christ.
Something about what he said clicked. On a walk along the coast with Andrew later that morning, we started jotting down notes in his phone about rest.
Rest is not spacial. We can find rest in Santa Barbara or at home in Lincoln Park.
Rest is a gift from God that is accessible at any moment.
Rest lives in the believer.
Talking out loud about these truths shifted my spirit immensely. It was as if a weight had been lifted. There was nothing wrong with me. Yes, I do run a bit more anxious than most people, but my problem was not unusual. Vacation is a wonderful opportunity to unplug and relax; however, it’s not the only place to find rest. True rest is found in Jesus, not on the sandy beach or at a luxurious resort or in the hills of a small seaside town.
A few miles later, Andrew and I packed up our matching suitcases and got ready for the drive to Los Angeles, where we were staying for our final night in California. We hugged my parents goodbye, and with that, we were off toward the 405. I rolled down my window and noted how perfectly blue the sky was that day.
What to do in Santa Barbara:
Try the local wines.
Order the Pacific Gold Oysters at The Lark (flown in nightly!).
Have brunch at Jane in downtown Santa Barbara.
Ooh-and-ahh over the real estate in Montecito.
Walk along the beach. It’s super foggy in the mornings, which makes for a scenic and cool vibe.
Relax by the ethereal pool at the Four Seasons. (After lunch, the hostess might even bring you a popsicle.)
Taste the fluffiest housemade bread at Lilac Pâtisserie. Andrew loved his club sandwich here.
What to do in Los Angeles:
Drive through Beverly Hills while blasting “Beverly Hills” by Weezer. (Had to.)
Shop on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice.
Sip a classic Old Fashioned (or Andrew’s choice, the “Gran Torino”) at The Tasting Kitchen.
Ask to sit in the backyard at Gjelina & order the mixed mushroom pizza.
Wait in line at Salt & Straw, because it’s SO worth it.